Doctor writes on clipboard in hospital

NHS Trusts can now share their AI innovations for the first time

Artificial intelligence tools that can save NHS staff hundreds of hours of work can now be accessed for free on a marketplace developed by Thoughtonomy. 

By sharing technology that has already been rolled out in some NHS Trusts, the company hopes that more parts of the NHS can easily adopt itThis will help staff save time on administration tasks and spend more time with patients. 

Thoughtonomy’s platform is hosted on Microsoft Azure, which lets the Trusts quickly and securely launch and grow projects that automate repetitive administration tasks. It also removes the need to start innovating from scratch. 

A programme reducing the time taken to process a GP referral is the first to appear on the platform. East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) developed the project and found it could dramatically reduce the time medical secretaries spent on administrative tasks. It saved more than 500 hours of the secretaries’ time and £220,000 within three months of being implemented. 

Darren Atkins, Chief Technology Officer at ESNEFT, said: “The release of Thoughtonomy’s NHS marketplace realises my ambition of collaborating with healthcare partners across the UK. By sharing our learning and jointly working on automations to satisfy a common goal, we are able to release time for our clinical and corporate staff faster, more efficiently and at a reduced cost. All the processes and objects freely shared in the platform belong to the NHS and may only be used by healthcare organisations for no commercial gain.” 

Thoughtonomy’s platform will only share tried and tested programmes that have been developed by other NHS Trusts, while access to the platform and use of the programmes is restricted to NHS bodies. 

Following success with automation programmes at ESNEFT, Atkins drove the development of the pioneering marketplace, having seen the benefits that automation could have in the NHS. He wanted to share projects across the country to improve patient care and reduce costs universally. 

Atkins expects the number of programmes available on the marketplace to increase rapidly as other innovation-driven Trusts share their automation projects on the platform. Other processes that are expected to be uploaded soon allow patients to cancel appointments via text and help staff automate part of the NHS invoicing process. 

Patrick Shepherd, UK Healthcare Leader at Thoughtonomy, said: “The shared marketplace is a great example of how NHS Trusts can work together to drive efficiencies, protect and support frontline staff and improve patient care through intelligent automation. We’re delighted to support and facilitate this initiative. We’ve already seen how the fantastic automation work being done in one Trust can easily be applied elsewhere to deliver game-changing results to staff and patients at other Trusts. 

We hope that this becomes the foundation for allowing highly engaged Trusts to share, collaborate and inspire each other. It is in everyone’s interests to see them realise the enormous benefits that intelligent automation can deliver, in particular addressing and overcoming many of the major budgetary and skills-related challenges facing the NHS today.” 

The rollout of Thoughtonomy’s platform comes after Microsoft’s report, “Accelerating competitive advantage through AI”, was released. The study found that, while the UK is at the forefront of healthcare AI innovation and uptake in the sector was increasing, the use of the technology remains mostly restricted to smaller, localised projects in the UK healthcare sector.